While juggling a demanding senior-year course load at the Maryland Institute College of Art in the spring of 2021, Valentina Soto immersed herself in her curatorial internship at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). She researched an eclectic mix of work from artists in Africa, North America, South America, and Asia.
Although she interned virtually due to complications of the pandemic, she was occasionally able to explore the museum’s vast collections in person. “I was there with my supervisor, and the energy you would feel in the space and looking at the intricate and delicate the artworks and their craftsmanship were some of the best experiences I’ve had,” she said.
Her primary task as a virtual intern was to devise visual descriptions for two-dimensional artworks from across the globe; her work was particularly instrumental in enabling BMA to offer online exhibition accessibility during the pandemic. Moreover, Valentina’s Latin American heritage heavily informed her work, and her Spanish-speaking skills were a highly valued asset.
She recalled, “When I went to research some the gold work, which mostly comes from Columbia, I found a lot of great books from archeologists who were Spanish-speaking, and so I translated these works for the museum.”
Apart from drafting descriptive narratives for various artworks, Valentina assisted two of the museum’s associate curators, Kevin Tervala and Darien Turner, in preparing for their upcoming exhibition on ancient American art. She helped them conduct extensive research on Mayan, Aztec, and Peruvian artworks, finding commonalities among the artistic cultures of these civilizations. Additionally, she created label copies for many of the pieces to be displayed in the exhibition, along with providing input on which works should be included.
Valentina particularly relished both the research-intensive aspects of her internship and the opportunity to inspect and handle the art in person. She forged close relationships with her supervisors, Kevin and Darien, the former of whom was able to connect her with a librarian at BMA who had also graduated from her university, Maryland Institute College of Art, in a similar program. These connections were instrumental in landing her a full-time position at BMA.
Valentina said that her internship at BMA equipped her with invaluable professional skills, including networking. “Aside from having the responsibilities of an intern, I also had a chance to learn from professional people in the art industry. I think that’s one of the things that stood out for me,” she said. After Valentina demonstrated her exceptional work ethic, diligence, and talents, Tervala extended a permanent job offer at the museum as a rapid-capture photographer for the Prints, Drawings & Photographs department.
“It was really crazy,” she said, “because I graduated from college on a Saturday, and the next Tuesday, I got the job.” Reflecting on the experience, she added, “The internship didn’t feel like just a job or a responsibility; I was actually learning while I was doing it. I think that’s what made it so remarkable.”